Archive for May, 2009

A human rights movie collection worth owning – Human Rights Watch Movie Box Set 2009

Posted on May 20, 2009. Filed under: Human Rights | Tags: , , , , |

Admirably, Human Rights Watch has developed this per annum movie series of first run films that heightens and enlightens our understanding of human rights abuses in history and at all corners of the globe. This year another bumper set has been brought together (7 in all) and is packaged beautifully with full liner notes from Human rights experts at Human Rights Watch coupled with the movie makers comments themselves. Keep an eye out for possible July release date. Only Amazon US is taking pre-orders at this point.

The films:

s-21killing fields camp Accolades: International Human Rights Award 2004; Best Director and Václav Havel Awards, One World Human Rights Film Festival 2004; Best Documentary, Chicago International Film Festival; Francois Chalais Award, Cannes Film Festival 2003; Grand Jury Prize, Copenhagen Film Festival 2003; FIPRESCI Prize, Leipzig Film Festival 2003

Filmaker and survivor Rithy Panh takes us back to the infamous point and place in time i.e. the Cambodian killing fields of 1975-79, when two million Cambodians died from murder and famine under the brutal Khmer Rouge’s ideal of an agrarian utopia. The population were forced into the countryside for re-education but were decimated in a relentless genocide. Panh’s own family were slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge.
This story is focused on the detention center ‘S-21’. ‘S-21’ was the schoolhouse-turned prison where 17,000 adults and children were interrogated, tortured and killed, their “crimes” documented to justify their execution. One survivor, Vann Nath, confronts his gaolers/jailers, one of whom, a prison guard by the name of Poeuv, was only 12 years old when he committed the atrocities. His fellow guards too are not apologists nor remorseful and sickenly attempt to justify their horrendous actions and the genocidal machine which they found themselves parts of.
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The Devils' Miner
Winner of the German Camera Award
Woodstock Film Festival, Best Documentary
Winner of the Humanitarian Award, Mexico Film Festival
Winner, Best Documentary Filmamkers, Tribeca Film Festival
Jerusalem Film Festival, Spirit of Freedom Award, Best International Documentary
Winner of the Silver Hugo Award, Best Documentary, Chicago Film Festival
Winner of the Fipresci Prize, Hot Docs – Toronto

The Devil’s Miner centres on two brothers, 14-year-old Basilio Vargas and his 12-year-old brother Bernardino, who risk their lives daily by working deep in the perilous silver mines of Cerro Rico, Bolivia, in order to earn a pittance to support their family and afford essential educational supplies. The boys, like their fellow miners turn to worshipping a demonlike deity, El Tio, for protection in their infernal underground world of darkness and despair. The boys have little hope of seeing better days and this harrowing tale makes us all realise how human rights laws in our safe Western countries are so easily taken for granted, especially those which protect the most vulnerable, our children.

Karma, a Tibetan filmmaker from New York, goes to Dharamsala to make a documentary about political prisoners who have escaped Tibet. She interviews Dhondup, an enigmatic ex-monk who confides in her that his real reason for escaping to India is to fulfill his dying mother’s last wish, to deliver a charm box to a long-missing resistance fighter. Karma unwittingly falls in love with Dhondup as his quest becomes a journey into Tibet’s fractured past and a voyage of self-discovery.

Silent Waters is set in 1979 Pakistan, when General Zia-ul-Haq took control of the country and stoked the fires of Islamic nationalism. Ayesha, who gets by on her late husband’s pension and by teaching young girls the Koran, invests her hopes in her beloved son Saleem. But when Saleem takes up with a group of Islamic fundamentalists just as a group of Sikh pilgrims come to town, Ayesha’s past comes to haunt her .

Accolades: Audience Award, Best Feature, Barcelona GLBT International Festival; Audience Award, Best Documentary, Hartford Alternatives Festival
Dangerous Living is the first documentary exploring the lives of homosexuals in non-western cultures. We hear the stories of gays and lesbians from Egypt, Honduras, Kenya, Thailand and elsewhere, places most occurrences of oppression receive no media coverage. Dangerous Living sheds light on an emerging global movement to end discrimination and violence against GLBT people.

Jury Prize; Audience Award, Best Documentary, Philadelphia International Film Festival
Summer, 1971: Protests against the Vietnam War are spreading across the US. In Camden, New Jersey a group of 28 activists are arrested by the FBI for attemping to destroy records in a local draft board office. Featuring a treasure trove of archival materials as well as current interviews with Howard Zinn and members of the Camden 28, The Camden 28 uncovers a story of potent dissent.

On December 2, 1980 lay missioner Jean Donovan and three American nuns were brutally murdered by El Salvador’s security force. Roses in December chronicles Donovan’s life, from her affluent childhood to her decision to volunteer in El Salvador to her tragic death. Roses in December is both an eloquent memorial to Jean Donovan’s commitment and a powerful indictment of U.S. foreign policy in Central America.

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Is Jean Allain a slave to the study of slavery? – book review – The Slavery Conventions: The Travaux Preparatoires of the 1926 League of Nations Convention and the 1956 United Nations Convention (Martinus Nijhoff, 2008)

Posted on May 11, 2009. Filed under: Human Rights | Tags: , , , , , , |

Jean Allain is one of the worlds foremost experts on the international law of slavery. Some would argue, it is his lifes work.

One thing is certain, he is one of the few legal scholars in history who has had the steadfastness to dig into the bowels of various UN libraries worldwide to put together the pieces of the highly elusive slavery conventions puzzle. Anyone that knows anything of this complex area of law knows that the slavery conventions, and what is considered the prevailing overall law on the subject, was not something constructed overnight or even in a year but over many decades, under the trusteeship of both the the UN and seminally, the League of Nations.

Jean Allain - The Slavery Conventions
With his book ‘ The Slavery Conventions’, Jean Allain has donned the cap of a forensic researcher to find us all the relevant working documents and negotiations history on the subject. He has analysed it with his sound scholarly skill and applied it, with a plethora of caselaw and legislative reference, for modern context. This work will inject clarity to the murky and ambiguous interpretation of the incongruous material of the past.
While I do not always agree with Allain’s views on the Middle East conflict, I commend his work highly on this subject and in turn recommend this text as an addition/acquisition to any human rights library or collection of works pertaining to this very important subject. Any human rights enthusiast will appreciate its worth on perusal.

The main Slavery Conventions brought together in this work are:
The 1926 League of Nations Slavery Convention
The 1953 Protocol Amending the Slavery Convention
The 1956 Supplementary Convention

They should be considered in tangent with:
The 2000 Palermo Protocol on the prevention, suppression and punishment of trafficking in persons;
The 2005 Copuncil of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in human beings

The limited print run from last year seems to be in very short supply. You may however secure/backorder your copy here: US, UK/EU and CANADA.

Humorous postscript – this piece by Elisabeth Wynhausen and Natalie O’Brien appeared in the Australian newspaper at the time of the High Court Case of Wei Tang, which incidentally considered the meaning of slavery. Excerpt concerning this book below.

‘A faint but unmistakable air of showmanship pervades the resulting proceedings. The plummy-voiced beetle-browed Mr Solicitor, as Bennett is called, doesn’t just look and sound like a character out of Rumpole, he actually resembles John Mortimer. Now and then an observer new to the High Court may wonder if the judges and these learned friends are playing a game called “Who’s got the best treaty, then?”

While Hayne quotes “the Official Journal of the League of Nations reporting on the 92nd Session of the council of the league for July 1936”, Brett Walker SC, the counsel for HREOC, quotes a book by a certain Monsieur Allain. Holding up the work in question, he says: “I understand I have the only copy in the country.”

The formidable performances almost seem to obscure the facts of the case.’

Michael Simon for the Human Right Book Review

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